Growing up, dinner wasn’t dinner if a meat, a starch and a vegetable didn’t grace our plates. Lose a leg of that holy trinity, and someone was sure to grumble.

Not anymore. These days, I’m busting up the dinner triumvirate and serving (gasp!) a couple of vegetable dishes in place of a starch. Or (double gasp!) all veggies instead of meat.

It’s easy to do — especially now, as spring vegetables start to poke through our garden and show up at local farmers’ markets.

Here are five ways we’re eating our veggies this season (meat and starch optional):

1. Sugar snap peas with all matter of greens:

snowpeas

Trim a pound of sugar snaps and immerse them for a mere 30 seconds in salted, boiling water. Remove the peas to an ice bath and cool completely. Drain and dry.

Glaze a saute pan with olive oil. Add 1 minced shallot, salt and pepper, and cook until the shallot is translucent. Add the sugar snaps and toss until they’re heated through. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in a couple of thinly sliced scallions and 1/3 cup of finely chopped parsley.

2. Chopped vegetables on ciabatta:

bruschetta1

This is a great way to use up leftover vegetables. Coarsely chop last night’s side dish (here, I chopped up roasted asparagus and baby spinach; kale and broccoli would be delicious, too) and toss it with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add a bit of feta cheese and season to taste.

bruschetta with baconPreheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place thin slices of ciabatta bread on a rimmed baking sheet, and lightly brush them with olive oil. Toast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and mound the veggies on top. Toast for an additional 5 minutes. Eat as is or top with a slice of crisp bacon.

3. Beets with blue cheese & pistachios:

beets cooked

Place 4 medium-sized beets on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour, or until tender.

Cool the beets slightly, then peel. Cut into cubes and top with crumbled blue cheese and toasted pistachio nuts.

4. Roasted spring vegetables with frond oil:

carrot dish

Choose your favorite veggies (I grabbed asparagus, baby carrots and red onions) and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place heartier specimens (like carrots and cauliflower) on one baking sheet; tender offerings (asparagus; onions) on another. Roast at 400 degrees until done. (The carrots will take 20 minutes; the asparagus and onions, 10).

Remove the vegetables and place on a pretty platter. Drizzle with pesto or oil made from vegetable fronds. (I’ve used oil made from carrot tops and from fennel tops for this dish.)

5. Whole cauliflower baked in olive oil:

cauliflower raw

This dish takes a bit longer to cook, but it’s so worth the time! Adapted from Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Prune,” the finished cauliflower makes a lovely side dish but is hearty enough to do entree duty. To make:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Take a whole cauliflower, remove the leaves and cut out the tough bottom core.

Place the cauliflower in a casserole dish, then pour 1/4 cup olive oil over it. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes.

cauliflower flippedRemove the pan from the oven and carefully flip the cauliflower upside down. Add an additional 1/4 cup olive oil, then bake for another 25 minutes.

Once the time has passed, flip the cauliflower once more and test it with a paring knife. It should be very soft. If not, bake another 10-15 minutes.

When done, remove the cauliflower to a plate. Serve as is, or toast some panko breadcrumbs in a skillet and shower over the top. Listen as your family munches away … with no “where’s the rice?” complaints!

cauliflower served1

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